Although there is still a lot of confusion about organically grown produce as compared to conventionally grown, organic produce is now commonly found in mainstream supermarkets and I find it necessary to state my own opinions as to why organically grown produce is better for the environment, the consumer, and the farmer.
Organically grown produce does not use pesticides or synthetic fertilizers. Organic produce can use fertilizers such as horse manure and compost. Chemical fertilizers are bad for the environment because they enter the groundwater very readily and pollute our drinking water and our bodies of water. This excess nitrogen in water such as lakes and oceans causes major algal blooms and kills aquatic life forms. This is of particular concern when we consider certain “dead zones” such as in the Gulf of Mexico and how it economically affects fishermen in Louisiana, Texas, et cetera. For those of you who are not yet environmentalists, it is important to consider the impact that environmental destruction has on us. For those of you who do not yet believe in global warming, believe this: although the Earth may seem very large, it is still an essentially closed system; what we release in our atmosphere will still have to be dealt with. And isn’t it more admirable to live simply and reduce our waste anyway?
There have already been several articles and studies that explain why organically grown produce is more nutritious and contains fewer harmful chemicals than produce that is conventionally grown. Organic produce is, in my opinion, much healthier for the consumer. It is best if the produce was grown in the consumer’s own country, even better if it is more local than that. Although organic produce tends to cost more than conventionally grown, this price gap has been shrinking due to the rising demand for organic foods. I also recommend buying some frozen produce to save money, such as frozen organic spinach to use in soups or pasta dishes. Our household also belongs to an organic CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) where we pay a local farmer a “share price” up front, and then collect part of the harvest each week. This works out to be about 15 dollars per week for what is typically two grocery bags full of produce. I highly recommend joining a CSA to get access to local and organic produce. But the biggest test of all to see if organic produce is better for the consumer is to try it yourself. Personally, I taste a big difference in organically grown tomatoes, nectarines, strawberries, and potatoes. It really says something about our food supply when you bring an organic peach to your grandmother and it brings tears to her eyes because it reminds her of the peaches she ate as a child. Organic is not a new or “yuppie” concept; it is a return to how food used to be grown.
One of the often more neglected arguments about organic produce is that it is better for the farmer. Farmers who grow conventional produce are exposed to far more chemicals than farmers who grow organically. These chemicals can cause cancers, lung problems that make breathing more difficult, and other serious health problems. Even though organics do have an increased cost, we should think of this as helping organic farmers to make a living without risking their lives! As demand continues to rise, costs will fall and more farmers will be able to farm organically and make a fair wage. When possible, buy from local farmers too, this helps to conserve land near your home. If those local farmers go out of business, that beautiful farmland could become a parking lot, apartment buildings, or a “big-box store.” Everyone deserves a reasonably safe work environment and farmers can have that if we all insist on organic methods of food cultivation. Organically grown produce has many advantages over conventionally grown; vote with your dollars and buy organic for your family!